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Italian GT, Misano – Race Report
Stuttgart 2, Rest Of The World 0

The 2013 Italian GT season commenced at the weekend at the Misano World Circuit, recently dedicated to the late Marco Simoncelli.

The track is so near to the Adriatic sea that, especially in Summer, you can walk on the sand and meet more drivers than you expected...but not this time, since the Saturday action was affected by lots of rain and very unpleasant weather.
Qualifying for Race 1 saw a clean sweep of the first row for the new 2013-spec Porsche, with Vito Postiglione for EbiMotors doing a great job, three tenths quicker than the 2011 GT Cup Champion Marco Mapelli in the Antonelli Motorsport 997 GT3 R.

The second row was quite a surprise, with the Imperiale Gallardo of ex-EbiMotors driver Giacomo Barri a tenth better than Tommaso Maino in the Black Bull 458. Title favourite Andrea Sonvico was only fifth in the #4 Audi, but worse than that Johan Kristofferson, in the #5 R8 LMS, had a shunt with a Cup Class Porsche and would start from the back of the 17-car grid in each race. Even worse was the BMW armada, with Stefano Comandini only seventh, almost one and a half seconds off pole, and the second car driven solo by Michela Cerruti ninth and two seconds down.

Race 2 qualifying saw another surprise, because Mirko Venturi in the #46 Ferrari 458 pulled a rabbit out of the hat and established himself in P1, half a second faster than Christian Passuti in the Antonelli Porsche.

Row two saw a little revenge from the "other Germans", since Stefano Colombo was third for BMW and Dindo Capello fourth for Audi; but both were more than one second down. Giuseppe Cirò (Ferrari) and Luigi Lucchini (Porsche) shared the third row, while the first Gallardo was only eight with Giorgio Sanna at the wheel.

The RC Motorsport Corvette arrived on the Thursday night with zero kilometers of testing, meaning the first weekend of races were likely to be challenging for Piero Necchi (starting P10 for Race 1) and Roberto Del Castello (11th for Race 2).

Qualifying 1 results - here
Qualifying 2 results - here
Race 1
The very early start of 9.00am saw a very uncharacteristic fog surrounding part of the track and a very cold temperature of no more than 12°C; as well as very few spectators in the stands. To compound matters, the new Avon tyres were taking lots of time to get up to working temperature, so the track director decided to have three warm-up laps to partially overcome the problem. We later discovered that it didn’t help much, as all but the Porsche drivers were complaining of a rapid switch from hard understeer to oversteer due to the tyres.

"We hope to race with rain conditions,” said Dindo Capello, in an interview just before the start of the race. “We’re struggling badly to get temperature into the tyres and the first three or four laps will be as bad as skating on ice; and I’m afraid we'll be three or four seconds slower than the others". Touring car legend and boss of Roal Motorsport, Roberto Ravaglia, was also interviewed on live TV and said, "We’re struggling a little bit with the new tyres, and also because of the BoP; the decisions made have left BMW and Audi a step down compared to the others.” Tactical action already before the start of the season? Of course - we're in Italy!

The start was a good one but Postiglione was a little bit slow to react and both Mapelli and Barri overtook the EbiMotors 911, Maino was fourth, then came Lancieri, Sonvico, Rangoni in the second Gallardo and the two BMWs of Colombo and Cerruti. Mixed into the Cup class were the Corvette and second Audi of Kristofferson.

The first two laps cleared up all the speculation over the winter - the 2013 version of the Porsche GT3 is a rocketship, with both Mapelli and Postiglione gaining one and a half seconds on Sanna and more than two on the others. Was the race already over for the first two places?

After 15 of the 48 minutes Mapelli and Postiglione – still very close each other and maybe even too close - were more than ten seconds clear of Barri, who tried to stay in front of an angry three-car-pack behind him.

Maino was still fourth and Sonvico now fifth after a very good overtaking move on Lancieri.

A lap later the running order was shaken up; not in the first two places, but behind in the podium race when Sonvico tried a very optimistic move on Maino. The result was a spinning 458 - the Black Bull Ferrari seeing its race end on the spot with a broken gearbox - and a late stop/go for Sonvico. The net result of this was that the "old fox" Luca Rangoni was now fourth in the second Gallardo, while Sonvico also lost a place to Comandini in the first of the BMWs; coming from nowhere behind all the mess initiated by the Audi.

Some laps later, just as the pit window opened, the "guilty" Sonvico overtook Rangoni for the fourth spot, this time with a clean move. A lap later, Postiglione finally overtook Mapelli, but soon it was the second drivers’ turn to step on track.

After the stops, the new leader was Lucchini-(Postiglione), just a few seconds in front of Passuti-(Mapelli); so still a Porsche 1-2. Then came Sanna-(Barri), Capello-(Sonvico), who would have to serve a stop and go penalty, Colombo-(Comandini) in the first of the BMWs, Cirò-(Lancieri) in the lone remaining Ferrari, Michela Cerruti and the last three cars of the GT3 class - the second Audi of Frassineti-(Kristofferson), the second Gallardo of Mulacchiè-(Rangoni), who mysteriously lost lots of time in the driver change, and the "work-in-progress" Corvette of Necchi-(Del Castello).

The race for the victory was soon over as the slower Lucchini couldn't contain Passuti and, despite his best efforts, he had to yield to the Antonelli Porsche for P1. Capello tumbled down the order to eighth as he served Sonvico's stop and go, while Michela Cerruti had to surrender her position to the second Audi of Frassineti in the final laps. But all eyes were focused on the last step of the podium, as Sanna - official test driver of Sant'Agata dream car - tried every trick in order to keep Colombo and Cirò behind him; but the extra weight he had to carry (thanks to the BoP) finally got the better of the "Bull" in the last two laps. Cirò overtook Colombo, who returned the favour some corners later, but the last lap was the more interesting one with Colombo trying a very late move on Sanna. The two cars touched and Cirò, who smelled fresh blood, said "thank you" and claimed the lower step of the podium. Sanna lost out badly during this move as he also had to surrender fourth place to Colombo.

As the chequered flag flew, it was a Porsche 1-2 with the 458 of Cirò in a good third place.

Then came Colombo, Sanna, Frassineti, Cerruti and Capello.

A very good race, then, with the usual rough ‘n tumble, but a clean victory for Porsche, who for sure will be penalised by the BoP next time.
Race 2
A little more than four hours later the 17 cars grid took the green flag for the final time in the day. Thankfully no major work had been required on the cars, except for the Black Bull 458 which had to change the gearbox; but for the next rounds the schedule has been revised, meaning there won’t be much time to overcome any big problems for the teams...Anyway the weather was still mostly cloudy with very high humidity, but no immediate threat of rain (sorry Dindo maybe next time in Austria...) The time penalties for the podium winners from Race 1 were 15 seconds for Passuti-Mapelli, ten for Postiglione-Lucchini and five for Cirò-Lancieri.

The start was another good one, but Venturi was a little bit too slow and both Passuti and Capello ‘smoked’ the 458, which almost lost third place as well to the other 458; but Venturi regained control and kept third. The positions were far from set and Colombo, two corners later, found the fourth place from Sanna and Gardel in the Cup class 911.

At the end of the first lap, Passuti was leading from Capello, Venturi, Colombo, Cirò, Sanna, Frassineti, Lucchini in the second Porsche and Cerruti. The first retirement of the race was Mulacchiè in the second Gallardo.

Behind the leaders Frassineti was very animated and tried several times to get Sanna, but without success; but it was only a matter of time and on Lap 3 the second Audi moved up to sixth.

Passuti had a clear lead but wasn’t able to pull away as quickly as in Race 1, and behind the Antonelli Porsche, Capello, Venturi and Colombo were battling each other very closely. Cirò was alone in fifth and some seconds clear of Frassineti, while the car in the deepest trouble was the black Lamborghini of Sanna, who had to work hard to keep Lucchini and Cerruti behind.

Cerruti soon overtook Lucchini and began to chase down Sanna, while upfront Venturi was losing patience but outbraked Capello with a very spectacular move for second overall. Colombo saw the move and a lap later tried the same move, but this time the inevitable contact was made. Dindo lost the spot and some laps later lost tyre pressure causing a right rear puncture, signaling the end of the leading Audi’s challenge for the victory. Colombo also looked to have incurred some damage during the contact with Capello, as Cirò was able to outbrake the BMW for his spot...and then a lap later the #1 Z4 suffered a punctured front tyre, which cost it almost a minute. But the tyre dramas were not over, since Frassineti also had a left rear puncture, maybe caused by some debris on track.

After the drive changes, the new leader was Maino-(Venturi) but Mapelli-(Passuti) was very close to the back of the Ferrari. Lancieri-(Cirò) was third, followed by the struggling (with weight, and tyres) sole remaining Lamborghini of Barri-(Sanna), Michela Cerruti and Postiglione-(Lucchini), who had to do a spectacular job to overcome the time lost by his slower teammate Lucchini. Then came the tyre-troubled cars of Kristofferson-(Frassineti), Comandini-(Colombo) and Sonvico-(Capello).

Soon Mapelli was attacking Maino hard, but the Ferrari driver made the overtaking move very hard indeed for hard that in the main straight the two exchanged a ‘tender’ door to door tap, but both were able to continue without damage (with the apparent ‘approval’ of the stewards).

Some laps later Lancieri overtook Maino without any trouble, but the real highlight of the last laps was "the man on fire", Postiglione, who smelled fresh hot blood and with fastest lap after fastest lap began to pass cars left, right and center; first Michela Cerruti, then Barri. As the last lap approached Postiglione had two and half seconds to make up on Maino. “No problem,” he said and made a very good move in the last corner, outbraking the Black Bull Ferrari for a very deserved third place; good job Vito.

Mapelli almost walked across the line as he won the second race from Lancieri.

Postiglione finished third, ahead of a very disappointed Maino, Barri, Cerruti, Kristofferson, Comandini and Sonvico.
The Cup class, a one make Porsche class for now, saw the start of Race 1 with a very clean lead for Magli followed by Pichler and Bianco. The driver-changes changed little in terms of the lead, because Magli was able even to stretch his lead (despite more time to serve in the pitstop because he raced alone) to 27 seconds and win the first race of the year. Bianco gave the car to the still very, very fast Fabio Babini, who managed to finish second, while Pichler lost his podium place to Adriano Pan, who shared his car with Gabriele Gardel, the 2005 FIA GT Champion who has returned to race in the Italian series for this year.

Race 2 was initially dominated by Gardel, who also kept behind him for most of the first stint the GT3 Corvette. Magli followed the Swiss driver for all the race, while Sala was third. The other Pro driver Babini didn't even finish the first lap, and Galbiati-Brambati retired too. The second part of the race smiled on Sala-Pichler who overtook Pan-Gardel for the top step of the podium, while third finished Donaviti-Gioia.

Race 1 results - here
Race 2 results - here
The next race will be at the Red Bull Ring, perhaps the most "Porsche-ish" track of the calendar.

Gabriele Tosi (all images © acisportitalia)